Researchers should have space for other than climate change alibi

19Oct 2019
The Guardian
Researchers should have space for other than climate change alibi

IS every problem being faced by people in the rural areas arising from climate change? One might be pardoned for thinking that this is the impression that researchers are portraying at present, where climate change becomes a whipping horse for all our ills. That doesn’t mean it has little to do-

- with our problems, but it creates an impression that we are victims of problems created by other people, elsewhere. Aren’t most problems here of our own making?

To be sure, even climate change related problems have a lot to do with local activities, for instance when city authorities prohibited people from mining sand along the Jangwani valley to ‘preserve the environment’ they created room for massive siltation. Not the water level from the bridge is scarcely more than one meter, instead of three or four meters earlier, and any massive downpour leads to the silted seasonal stream filling up and overflowing. The key road connection to the city centre is cut off. It isn’t climate change per se.

That is why some queries can be raised as to whether poverty stricken rural areas only have climate change to blame, or other ills besides. Research conducted by various experts at the Mwanza branch of the Institute of Rural Development Planning (IRDP) has shown that residents of Busega and Bunda districts in Simiyu and Mara regions face extreme poverty like missing one or two meals in a day. This is explained as arising from vagaries of climate change.

The research sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and conducted in villages of the two districts found alarming levels of poverty. Some households are unable to have any substantial meals practically every day. This research was conducted over a small area that is not statistically representative of the whole country but experiences can be compared across the board to determine if it doesn’t nearly always apply. Unless there is a well placed family member, like father or mother, who earns a dependable salary.

It is not clear that at a meeting that saw participants from various sections of society touched by the study had any real suggestions on what to do. Most areas don’t have forests anymore from which rains depend, and soils are tired while no regular use of manure (apart from phosphates, etc) is available. Nor can irrigation be assured either for lack of water or topography, or both.


Scaling all those problems requires altering the speed of disruption of soil and rainfall sustainability, all of which is beyond reach for peasants. It becomes easier to say it is climate change. Some peasants complained of elephants from nearby Serengeti National Park invading their villages and destroying food crops, consigning them to hunger and prolonged poverty. Others pointed at pests destroying the cassava crop which many people in the Lake Zone area district depend for food, a problem that belongs both to science as well as to regulation. Sticking with native species of staple foods makes it easier for pests to make their usual ravages and out colleges conduct interminable researches. That might also have to be reconsidered to adapt to climate change vagaries, ability of pests to reproduce more and with ease, for all sorts of staple crops.

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